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Work Session Looks At American Relief Bill Funds

By ERIC X. VICCARO

eviccaro@stegenherald.com

Ste. Genevieve Board of Aldermen had a work session to discuss possible uses for American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act money the city expects to receive.

The American Rescue Plan, from the Office of President Joe Biden, will deliver additional relief to the American people and the communities they reside in.

The plan provides direct relief, helps mount a national vaccination program and contain the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and more.

In Ste. Genevieve County, the county is expected to receive $3,470,431, with $813,370 for the city of Ste. Genevieve. Bloomsdale will receive $102,220 and St. Mary $63,730.

Ste. Genevieve city administrator Happy Welch reported participating in another ARP webinar April 14.

The webinar served as a regurgitation of previous information, explaining money may be used for water and sewer projects, broadband communications and tourism and hospitality.

It was recently learned that tourism/hospitality was an acceptable use for ARP disbursements.

Welch reported there are other programs available; however, the lion’s share of them are for larger municipalities.

Welch has been having discussions with tourism director Toby Carrig and Alliance Water Resources manager Steve Wilson on possible uses.

During the work session, Wilson provided a “wish list” of five possible projects – including work on two creek crossings.

The first crossing is at the intersection of North Fourth and LaHaye Streets, and the second on Main Street downtown.

“The lines there are beyond their useful years, and we would like to schedule their replacement.”

Wilson said the cost of the line project varies based on engineering and the type of lines the city would choose.

A control valve, another possible requested item, could be of help in cases of a broken line developing during a natural disaster such as a flood – which Ste. Genevieve knows all too well from its history.

Wilson said it would help “isolate the section of line” involved.

Ward 3 Alderman Mike Raney was strongly in favor of Wilson’s department receiving a new electrical control panel at the water plant located on Market.

“It’s a safety item,” Raney said. “I think it’s necessary.”

Wilson would like to move the housing of a control panel into a small building outside the plant. A new panel would roughly cost a reported $150,000.

A fourth item Wilson listed was fine screen, which comes with a price tag between $200,000-$250,000.

“A fine screen removes grit, trash, clogs and baby wipes, anything not organic,” Wilson explained in a telephone interview with the Herald last Thursday.

Wilson also requested a belt press system, which has a cost of anywhere between a reported $300,000-$375,000.

A belt press system would turn solid waste and convert it into a powdery substance like dirt – it’s often seen as an essential wastewater process in community systems.

“Steve could spend all of it in water and sewer,” noted Ste. Genevieve Mayor Paul Hassler during the work session. “This is a golden opportunity.”

Should the city decide to make these improvements as soon as it receives money, engineers and electricians could be hired in short order.

Recently re-elected Ward 1 Alderwoman Susie Johnson expressed her desire to have the city develop a mobile application for tourism.

Ward 4 Alderwoman Ashley Armbruster said a possible broadband use would be for providing emergency bulletins in real time through a text service – because not everyone has Facebook.

It’s also been said the city needs a fresh website; however, Welch said it would be for the best for the creation of separate sites for the city and for visitstegen.com, the tourism page.

Welch reported new websites would cost an estimated $5,000 to $30,000 based on the bells and whistles implemented.

Armbruster also brought up the idea of adding more wifi hot spots similar to what the county recently furnished.

ARP money most likely will not be available for items such as repaving, street or sidewalk construction.

The United States Department of the Treasury will ultimately determine all the uses for the money, complete with a waiting period for funds, and any decisions on how to spend it will be up to the board of aldermen.